massage therapist | photographer

14 things I’ve learned since leaving massage school : #7

In Massage, self care, Uncategorized on March 24, 2016 at 2:14 PM

(March 15th marked 14 years since my first day of massage school out in Port Townsend, WA. I spent a little time reflecting on what I’ve learned from having my hands on countless bodies of all different shapes, sizes, and levels of health over the years.  In random order here are some of my observations and things I wish my clients knew.)

#7  Pressure is subjective

A common question I’ll ask a new client is “What kind of pressure do you like?” Then I’ll remind them that pressure is subjective and ask them to communicate with me throughout their session if anything is too deep or too light.

I have an idea of what a light amount of pressure feels like from my perspective as the giver [about 4 pound of pressure] and let my clients preference guide me in regards to how much deeper to go. The challenge is, we all live in our bodies differently. Some of us are sensitive and others have high pain tolerance levels. Some of us think we need pain in order to heal and other people think gentle prodding works better. Occasionally people are so checked out from their bodies that they don’t feel much of anything at all.


A regular client I had asked for moderate to light pressure.  As we worked together I quickly learned that what I thought of as extremely light pressure felt very deep to them. They came to see me every two weeks. Each time I backed off the pressure more, trying to find their sweet spot. They joked around that they felt like my Goldilocks client. During one session I had backed off so much that I felt like I wasn’t massaging them at all.  I didn’t believe it would be possible to use less pressure. As I gently used my thumb to work on the upper part of the Trapezius they burst out laughing and said, “Oh great … here comes that thumb again. It feels like you’re trying to reach down from the top of my shoulder to the bottom of my scapula and just wrestle a knot right out of me …”

We both laughed for the next 5 minutes of the session. I actually believe that the laughter was a release of a holding pattern for them because afterwards the same amount of pressure didn’t cause as much discomfort.

Please know that it’s your body, your massage session and your right [and responsibility] to let us know what’s going on for you. We do our best to honor what you’ve asked for, and every once in a while you may have to bust out a ‘back off sister’ or ‘I could use more pressure there’ because we don’t know what it’s like to live in your body.

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